We write simply to keep you informed on an important matter.
The Department for Transport published “Ports Good Governance Guidelines” in March this year, a considered set of updated guidelines for the running of all Statutory Harbour Authorities “ in the broad public interest” with “key principles of openness, accountability and fitness for purpose”.
You will be pleased to learn that the Government guidelines reflect BHT’s long held vision of how Bembridge Harbour should be run, with the added authority that the directives should be followed, without exception.
The trustees recommend members read the guidance, in particular Section Two. The document is available here: Ports Good Governance Guidelines, 2018
However, for those unable to read the full document, here are some of the key points on current failures in management when assessed against the three “key principles of openness, accountability and fitness for purpose”:
- Openness; No published board minutes or full accounts to identify how income is made and spent, including Harbour Dues, (with requests rejected or indefinitely delayed), no strategy or annual plan is published (with requests rejected).The Public are left ill-informed with no or ability to measure performance against any plan or long term strategy.
- Accountability; No non -executive directors or wider committee, no annual evaluation, no information on remuneration of directors. BHT expressing dissent have been banned from the advisory group.
- Fitness for Purpose: The directors do not appear to have the necessary independence, there is no clear demarcation between other companies owned by the same two directors and shareholders. The board have failed to procure essential repairs and maintenance, including dredging (despite requestsand minuted undertakings)
To illustrate we copy some key clauses in the document which appear not to be complied with currently and on which we hope the Harbour’s Management will act, some 7 months after publication.
“DfT expects all SHAs to carefully consider [the guidance] and to implement its principles.” (Section 1.8 Pg. 4)
“As well as providing accounts and reports to the Secretary of State, SHAs should also make them available more widely to stakeholders as a key way of providing transparency about their activities.”(Section 2.27 Pg. 16)
SHAs should be “managing harbours in the broad public interest”(Section 1.4 Pg 4) whilst “engaging effectively and fully with stakeholders and carrying out their business in an accountable way.”(Section 1.5 Pg. 4)
“Posting accounts and reports, including Strategic Reports, on websites is likely to be an important way of achieving this.” (Section 2.27 Pg. 16)
“An audit committee, including three NEDs or two in smaller organisations, should be established.” (Accountability, Principles, Bullet Point 3, Pg. 10)
“The board…should include an appropriate combination of executive directors and NEDs [Non-Executive Directors] such that no individual or small group of individuals can dominate the board’s decision taking.” (Board Effectiveness, Principles, Bullet Point 2, Pg. 9)
Bembridge Harbour Trust will continue to press its proper expectations of a Statutory Harbour Authority, including appropriate compliance.
Whilst this is best practice guidance, not law, we feel the public have the right to expect good practice, and proves incontrovertibly that it is simply not sufficient for any owner to say; ‘it is our harbour, and we will do what we want with it.’
This Trust continues to press for reasonable openness, accountability and a long term plan developed with stakeholders, that will see the Harbour thrive into the future with community support.
Felix Hetherington, Sara Smith, Jeremy Gully, Chris Attrill, Michael MacInnes and John Raymond
For and on behalf of Bembridge Harbour Trust